Aligning Market Adoption to Buying Behavior


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In my last post, I suggested that we need to re-think the buyer adoption curve. I also implied that 80% of active buyers don’t buy, and sales people have diminished influence over buyers today. The problem is no different than it has been in the past, but the environment we are in has changed; requiring some adaptations. The misguided theory of hiring more talent with rolodexes to increase sales no longer works (profitably).

It’s time to recognize two simple facts: first, you can only manage systems, not the randomness of people and second, no one ever cared about our products, but they had no place else to go to get their information. Now buyers do have other places to go, and it doesn’t matter how good you are at sales, you team will simply never overcome a poorly designed system (or no system) in the long run. Say what you will; you’re probably in sales. J

With so much information available to buyers today, they no longer need to come to us to negotiate for it. Many times, they are ready to make a decision by the time they seek us out. This is clearly the wrong time to be doing needs analysis; you should already know what a customer group or market segment is trying to accomplish. Understanding specific business cases within this context is where your salespeople take over. However, we’re still not making it easy for them – whether by choice, or by ignorance. We are no longer aligned with our buyers’ purchase cycle; we provide information that is convenient to us, and we do it at the wrong time and in the wrong place.

For instance, the following are a few examples of feature verbiage used across a number of top tier marketing automation websites (more on this research found by joining the Social Executive Council (SEC)):

Cross-Channel Checklist

Best Overall Marketing Solution

Complete. Not Complex

Content and tools to make you smarter and more efficient


Easy. Powerful.Complete

Drip marketing programs

Email Marketing

Shorten Sales Cycles

Publish Content to your Social Accounts

Capture and Engage Leads

Demonstrate Marketing Accountability

Do any of these look like your job-to-be-done, or the problem you’re trying to solve? Imagine sifting through various websites trying not only to find differentiation between the vendors, but trying to align any of them to your problem. Aren’t they supposed to be marketing experts? No wonder so many marketing organizations flail and mass mail; a convenience provided to them by the very people they look to for answers. Here is a fact: our customers know what they’re problem is, even if they can’t articulate it. We just aren’t asking the right question. Messaging like this does not align to the desired outcomes of our buyers; even if our product or service is a perfect fit. The good news is that our competitors aren’t doing any better. The end result is that we win on price; not really a goal we’re shooting for.

Understanding how customers make a purchase decision improves the job of selling. Understanding the #JTBD improves the product. #innovation

We basically have two problems to solve. First, we have to recognize as sellers that we have a buyer adoption problem. Here are some key indicators Judy Mod (President of the Social Executive Council) shared with me:

  1. You have no visibility as to when an active buyer enters the market
  2. You are not reaching active buyers early enough, or getting close enough to influence their buying decisions
  3. You are missing opportunities because you don’t make the buyer’s short list
  4. If an active buyer engages with you, they come prepared with their requirements and you have little chance to influence them.
  5. The tactical sponsor is unable to make the strategic business case, or gain internal consensus to make a purchase decision.

Anecdotal evidence has shown that as many as 80% of the active buyers end up not buying at all. Let me repeat, 80% of the buyers out there cannot, or do not make a decision; and it’s your fault, not theirs. Those of you who close 80% of the prospects who enter your funnel will probably disagree. For the other 99.9% of the world, we only close a small percentage, so what happens to them? The SEC suggested the following breakdown:

  • 40% can’t get agreement to move forward
  • 20% lose to competitors
  • 40% get stuck trying to get consensus around the problem they need to solve.

Let’s look at this from the buyer’s perspective. They will have a buyer adoption problem if:

  1. They can’t see themselves as your target buyer based on the way you describe your solution.
  2. They can’t see how you will solve their business problem.
  3. They can’t tell how you will solve their business problem better than your competitor (and vice versa many times).
  4. They can’t tell how you will help them make the right purchase decision, mitigate their risk, and maximize their return

Whose job is that? It’s not the customer’s job; it’s your job!

1 – Adapted from Social Gastronomy

If there’s one thing innovation theory has taught me, we don’t understand our customers’ needs. As a result, most innovations are not really innovative by definition; there’s no adoption. On the other hand, there are many products out there that just have the wrong messaging and never reach the appropriate customer segment. Again, innovation frameworks will help here too; it doesn’t always require a new product, maybe just new messaging communicated to the right group at the right time.

Above, you see the buyer first figuring out that they have a problem, a situation; or as I like to say a job to get done. At that point, they can be influenced by messaging and content that is relevant. Your product is not relevant then or later. If the customer is trying to solve a problem, why is the messaging they find about features? If you and your prospect can’t agree to the problem, how can you agree to a solution?

Without getting too complicated, or too far ahead of ourselves let’s take some steps to figure this out. Think about your recent buyers and list the specific business problems you helped them solve. Did it result in a measurable business outcome? Did you know about this problem before they came to you, or before you found them? If you have any uncertainty while thinking about this, there are a number of changes you can make; some I have written about, some I will be writing about. Or you can find groups like the Social Executive Council on LinkedIn that are trying to solve this problem as a group.

More to come…

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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